Tararua Range–far north
27 October 2010
The northernmost thirteen kilometres of the Tararua Range were cleared of forest for farming ages ago, except for Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve, and are now dominated by two windfarms. From Pahiatua Aokautere Road (Pahiatua Track), North Range Road runs along the range to Hall Block Road which descends steeply through the reserve to Balance Gorge Road, about 1 km from SH3 in the Manawatu Gorge.
The route provides an interesting day trip from Wellington, whether by public transport and taxis, as I did, or by car. You have the choice of walking it, as I did, or using mountain bikes.
From the 7.25 am Overlander train from Wellington to Palmerston North Station on 27 October, I travelled by Palmerston North taxi (ph 03 555 333) to North Range Road ($60), arriving about 10 a.m. In hot sun, I set off along the dirt road towards Te Rere Hau windfarm, where the two-bladed turbines, with hump-backed nacelles, were stationary, perhaps awaiting certification, or perhaps the wind was too light. East of the site office, preparations were being made to erect more to add to the twenty or so already erected From here, the legal road is rutted, little used, and more pleasant to walk along, because alongside it are small areas of regenerating native forest, some pine forest, and from it are views of the Ruahine Range, and the nearby plains. Soon, Trust Power’s Tararua Windfarm’s giant turbines dominated the skyline, some with lattice towers, like Meccano, but most with solid-looking towers. The wind had risen a little, and some turbines rotated lazily, their wooshing noise adding to the visual impact of their massive proportions.
I used the NZMS 260 T24 Palmerston North map, published in 2007, which showed many of the turbines, but neither Trust Power’s substation, nor its site office further north. Navigation along the legal road is no problem, at least in good visibility, despite the many side-roads that lead to the turbine towers on adjacent private land, because most have locked gates.
It was a relief to reach the homestead beyond the windfarm, and soon begin the steep, twisty, descent of Hall Block Road, through fine native forest with views down to the railway, Manawatu River, and SH3. After almost six hours of brisk walking, I crossed the bridge over the river, and promptly rang for a taxi ($90). It arrived about 4.30 p.m., and got me to Palmerston North Station, in time for the 5 pm Overlander train home to Wellington. I recommend this jaunt as a good day out, but choose your day because there is little shelter! CH
- Party members
- Chris Horne(scribe).